Author: Jack Greenbaum
As finals week rapidly approaches, it’s likely that only loyal cinephiles will be attending the multiplex for their celluloid fix. So instead of critiquing the most recent releases, I thought I’d review an upcoming release for you to see while enjoying your winter break.
The holidays are just around the corner, and while to most it means joyous celebration and presents, this year it means one more thing: “Sherlock Holmes.” The Arthur Conan Doyle character takes to the silver screen on Dec. 25, after a long hiatus, to deduce and destroy villainous plots.
Having been portrayed in over 200 films, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most ubiquitous characters in cinema. Now, Robert Downey Jr. finally gets a whack at portraying the Victorian detective with the help of director Guy Ritchie.
At the end of the 19th century, Sherlock Holmes remains the eminent private investigator for all of Britain, which is only underscored by his brilliant capture of the sinister Lord Blackwood at the beginning of the film. However, once Blackwood has been tried and hanged, Holmes seems to have nothing to do but get to work. That is, until news spreads that Lord Blackwood has risen from the dead – and suddenly, Holmes is back on the case.
All this coincides with the arrival of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a skilled con artist, and one of Holmes’ few worthy adversaries. She approaches him for help in finding a certain scientific experiment going on somewhere in London. Adler not only poses a challenge to Holmes’ trained mind, but also to his heart, as she is the only woman he has ever really cared for. So with their caseload full, the brilliant Holmes and his masterful companion Watson (Jude Law) set off on a journey of mystery and adventure.
Downey has always been a talented thespian, and this film gives him a chance to exhibit his chops. Holmes is a complex, brilliant and famed character, and Downey is definitely able to craft a detective worthy of the original stories.
Holmes is a fighter; he is a genius; he is an ass. The literary character has always displayed a cunning sensibility, but this film really extracts how crass Holmes is. Caught up in his brilliance, Sherlock Holmes forgets to consider the thoughts and feelings of others, therefore affronting numerous individuals.
While Downey plays him with charm, he also captures the element of social tactlessness that leads Holmes to more than one disastrous social interaction, much to the amusement of the audience.
Jude Law’s Dr. Watson returns to the roots of the literary character, portraying Watson with both loyalty and disdain for his friend. In contrast to earlier films where Watson was conveyed as the bumbling consort to the gifted detective, Law allows the character to be more of an equal to Holmes than a sidekick. They work through mysteries together and are both equivalently responsible for the success of their cases. Together, Downey and Law possess wonderful on-screen chemistry, elegantly portraying one of the earliest and most famous dynamic duos.
Director Guy Ritchie utilizes his abilities as a filmmaker to capture the griminess of 19th century London. While new to period-piece filmmaking, he is well-versed in the ways of crime and underground Britain. The cinematography throughout the film is characteristically slick yet gritty, showing that Ritchie is staying true to his stylistic form.
Since the stories of Sherlock Holmes involve well thought out mystery, the film gains a level of complexity that goes beyond the formulaic action film. Therefore, no twist or turn is without a purpose to the overall story. The action and adventure keep the audience engaged, but it is logic that is most intriguing in this film. Holmes’ deductive skills in solving the mysteries leave the mind reeling far after the film is finished.
Overall, this film demonstrates the abilities of an action movie to be both explosive and intellectual with characters that are both tough and clever. As a result, it has all the elements of a fascinating, entertaining post-finals film.
So if you’re looking for something to see over winter break that is heart-pumping and mind-boggling, “Sherlock Holmes” is certainly the perfect holiday delight.
This film was screened at the Harmony Gold Theater on Dec 2, 2009.
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